White sage is one of the most
White sage is one
of the most important plants used within the Tongva culture. While it is
generally well known that various Native American cultures have spiritual
uses for sage, the Tongva specifically consider white sage a "prayer
plant." Sage provides many strictly medicinal uses as well. However, many
of the uses of sage are considered to be both medicinal and spiritual
simultaneously. These uses reflect the central role the plant occupies
within Tongva culture.
As a medicine, the
Tongva use white sage as a general cleanser or tonic. For bronchial
problems, the Tongva make a mild tea from the leaves. The leaves may also
be smoked to treat colds. The leaves can be applied to the body as hair
wash, hair dye, hair straightener, and are also rubbed onto the body as a
deodorizer. For eye inflammations or to cleanse the eye, the Tongva grind
one seed for use on both eyes. Also, after Tongva women have given birth,
to drink an infusion of white sage roots promotes overall healing.
Finally, white sage is used to cleanse the blood from a poison oak
infectionó the Tongva drink a decoction made of two leaves per "cup" of
water to rid the bloodstream of the poison.
The Tongva also
grind the seeds of white sage and eat them in porridge and bread. In fact,
sage seeds can be used to thicken flour. The leaves themselves are also
eaten, as well as the tender stems of the plant.
non-medicinal uses of white sage within Tongva culture reflect how the
plant can simultaneously be defined as both medicinal and spiritual in its
use. The Tongva gather bundles of white sage, dry them, and use them for
"purification" ceremonies, spiritual cleansing, "smudging," blessing
ceremonies, and to focus on spiritual or serious matters concerning both
and the community. They also smoke the leaves dried,
together with native tobacco. They hang bundles of white sage leaves in
the sweat house, and the same bundles are used for "smudging" clothes,
houses, or instruments.
white sage disperses bad luck, for example if a menstruating woman
accidentally touches the equipment that a man uses to hunt with. Finally,
the Tongva apply white sage to the body before hunting in order to hide
"human" smells that might ward off the hunted animals.
Tongva legend, white sage must be respected and venerated when found: "the
one laying down are very old, we call it grandmothers and we are very
respectful of themó when we find one we give thanks.". Canada
Mario G. Maldonado, M.D..